BICS Essay Contest Ignites Survival of Consciousness Research

October 28, 2022
Mona Sobhani, PhD

Where do we go when we die? Do we simply cease to exist? Or, does our awareness live on in some way? The question of whether consciousness survives after our physical body dies has occupied a place in the top mysteries of humankind for millennia. This existential question used to be relegated to religion, but in recent decades, science has taken an interest.

Despite the fact that scientific evidence for the survival of consciousness after bodily death has been growing, the survival research topic has scant funding available and receives little attention from the scientific community, especially compared to more mainstream fields of research.

But, that’s starting to change.

BICS Essay Contest Highlights Interest

Wanting to raise awareness about and stimulate research on the survival of human consciousness after death, the Bigelow Institute for Conscious Studies (BICS) recently held an essay contest. The question the essayists had to answer was, “What is the best available evidence for the survival of human consciousness after permanent bodily death?” We were one of the 29 winners of the contest, and you can read a summary of our award-winning essay here.

The BICS essay contest was important in a number of ways. With over 205 essays submitted from over 1000 applicants, the contest demonstrated that there are a significant number of researchers who are interested in evaluating evidence of the survival of consciousness. Some of the researchers had been compiling scientific evidence of survival for decades and were eager to lay out the significant findings they had gathered. So, the fact that there has been a lack of a major research effort hasn’t been because of a lack of interest from researchers.

Sparking Breakthrough Conversations

The BICS essay contest also elicited enthusiasm and excitement among researchers of different fields. Specifically, the announcement of the winners drove new, exciting, and necessary conversations between survival researchers and critics of survival research — so much so that the Journal of Scientific Exploration published a special issue with back-and-forth commentary from postmortem survival critics outlining their critiques of the essays and some of the essay authors —  including us —  defending their work. 

Moving Survival Research Forward

These breakthrough conversations between critics and researchers sparked ideas and suggestions regarding what the next steps for survival research should be to move the field forward. Since survival research has not received as much funding or attention as other fields, it will be important to work out details of the types of experiments and evidence needed to ensure future research is rigorous but also sensitive to the nuance of the topic being investigated. Overall, the contest spurred very promising higher-level thinking about survival since it was one of the most in-depth analyses the field has ever seen. As this is highly provocative research that engenders passionate conversation on both sides of the debate, these developments are crucial and transformative, and will hopefully lead to innovative breakthroughs. The contest has really inspired and ignited the field. 

New BICS Grant Program

Committed to moving survival research forward, BICS just recently announced a new grant mechanism, the 2023 Grants Program. The aim of the program is to inspire the next round of research into contact and communication with post-mortem or discarnate consciousness (also known as “the Afterlife,” or the “Other Side”), leading to the reception of higher-order information of value to humankind (“wisdom acquisition”). There is a total of $1 million in grants available for up to at least 16 new research projects. This opportunity is hugely important and meaningful because most science funding in the U.S. comes from the federal science agencies, which have not been historically interested in this type of consciousness research. This new funding opportunity from BICS is another tremendous opportunity to propel survival research forward into new domains. 

Why is this Important?

Wondering whether our consciousness continues on after our physical bodies die has mystified humans for as long as we have existed. Now, with reinvigorated interest and modern scientific methods, we can begin to seriously collect and analyze evidence for the continuation of consciousness. From our survey data for our BICS essay, we showed that people may be persuaded to believe in an afterlife if shown certain types of scientific evidence. This would be hugely meaningful as it’s been demonstrated that believing in survival after death has proven health benefits, including improved well-being and outlook on life. We should continue to approach this research topic with curiosity and humility since the discovery of survival could decisively influence the human perspective of life in wondrous ways, eliminating the fear of death and causing us to reevaluate the way we live. With this new funding support – and hopefully others like it – we may finally resolve one of the longest held mysteries of existence.

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